Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thank You Darwin!

I read once in National Geographic how researchers were analyzing human love and attraction and attempting to show that this, too, was but an outgrowth of our genetically programmed impulse for survival and continuation of the species.

I've never understood all the fuss about the law of survival. It seems so obvious (to anyone perhaps but a scientist) it should never have received tha attention it has garnered.

I suppose some of these "Darwinists" also interpret great works of art and acts of personal self-sacrifice in terms of the law of survival, as well. But the attempts reek of the sterile laboratory of dry, myopic reasoning.

Consider that long before Darwin, Adam Smith published the (then) shocking assertion that self-interest was the motivation behind all human action. Ah, yes,yet another fact of human nature revealed to us that is otherwise so obvious as to never having merited particular attention by people with common sense and a higher vision of life.

And then there's the "pursuit of happiness" enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Who's to argue with these great "revelations?"

Now all told, none of this is either shocking or blasphemous in its own right. The issue I take with it all is twofold: 1) It's simply and truly inadequate to explain anything meaningful to human existence, and 2) Scientists and nonscientists alike have made bold attempts to make a philosophy of life (and in some cases a religion) out of such pedestrian observations. The modern age seems to have gloried in the most banal realities of human existence.

Returning, then, to Darwin and his army of devotees, we can say that competition and survival have been elevated to the heights of the greatest virtue in social theories, pyschology, politics, and the arts. Both communism and capitalism owe their stark, dark, and banal dogmas to the deification of the mundane realities of self-interest and material needs.

Again, who would argue with obvious fact of competitiveness (and its potential benefits when held in check). It's just that the 19th and 20th centuries which promoted this "philosophy" managed to slaughter hundreds of millions of people, wipe out entire species of animals and plants, and bring this earth rapidly towards potential self-destruction!

In other words, philosophy DOES matter. Social values DO MATTER. The Founding Fathers of America created checks and balances to hold at bay the self-interest that they wisely knew was the engine of human motivation. At the same time, they themselves were guided by and extolled for everyone high ideals of the social good, belief in God and recognition of divine love and virtues.

According to the teaching of duality, however, all things have their opposite. I have noticed that since the Sixties, the science of ecology is reawakening a steadily growing and enlightened self-interest that is the necessary counterweight to competition and materialism. Ecology contains an implicit philosophy of interdependence and places a high value upon mutually supportive diversity. At heart, these are, arguably, spiritual values and, in fact, only to some degree, scientific ones.

Of course, religion ought to offer such insights but science and religion have been at odds for centuries, with religion steadily losing ground and science gaining respect and becoming the religion of modern culture. Religious principles founded on a priori beliefs and sectarian dogmas have earned the disdain of intelligent and high-minded people all over the world.

So, if science is the modern religion then it must needs be science that will save us! And that's where the message of ecology seems to have played a role.

Still, science, whether pedestrian or elevated, cannot satisfy the deeper and eternal questions of humankind, nor can it satisfy the heart. For wisdom, too, Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his famous life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," we have a hunger (not just for food and shelter).

This is where and why the life-affirming and all-encompassing ancient Vedanta philsophy of India has encircled the globe offering hope for a better world. Vedanta is incomplete with the knowledge, science, and art of how to attains its cosmic vision of the creation and the purpose of creation.

That art and science is the personal and nonsectarian practice of meditation and Self-realization. Science will never be enough to transform civilization. At every great turn of history, it is the saints and men and women of universal vision who guide humanity away from the rocks of self-destruction towards the shores of true survival.

Blessings, Hriman

P.S. If you'd like to learn more about this subject, please obtain a copy of Swami Kriyananda's (J. Donald Walters) insightful landmark book, "Out of the Labyrinth." It's sequel, equally inspiring and forward looking, is "Hope for a Better World."